KINGSTON — Jamaican civil society groups have called on the country’s public defender to finally deliver an overdue report on a bloody security operation in May 2010 to catch the island's biggest underworld boss.
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition said it was “completely unacceptable” that the public has no clue when even an interim report on the 2010 Tivoli Gardens raid would be finished by the office of Public Defender Earl Witter.
“It is an indictment on the Jamaican state that the events of May 2010 have not yet been the subject of a full investigation and explanation to the people of Jamaica,” the groups in the coalition said.
Witter has missed several self-imposed deadlines to complete the report on the security operation by soldiers and police to catch drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the leader of the notorious Shower Posse syndicate.
The deadly raid into Coke's politicized slum stronghold in West Kingston killed at least 73 civilians. Days before soldiers and police broke through barricades into Tivoli Gardens, gangsters from across Jamaica traveled to the housing complex in a show of support for Coke, who was later caught and extradited to New York, where he was sentenced in June to 23 years in prison.
Even though it was one of the bloodiest episodes in Jamaica's recent history and there have been numerous claims of unlawful killings, basic details of the operation still remain murky. Even the death toll is disputed.
Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who built the Tivoli Gardens housing complex in the 1960s and is still revered as a patron by residents, has estimated that as many as 150 people were killed.
On Nov. 19, Witter blamed a staff shortage in his office as among the reasons why his report is unfinished some two and a half years after the bloodshed. Besides the reports of extrajudicial killings, there are more than 1,000 complaints about rights violations by security forces.
“We are not only seriously but some would say grievously understaffed,” Witter told reporters during a press conference.
Politicians have repeatedly said they cannot comment on calls for a full public inquiry into the deadly operation until Witter's report is delivered to lawmakers.
The civil rights groups also called on Parliament to immediately make sure that Witter's office has the capacity to complete the report. The office has been formally summoned to deliver it before the end of the year.
“The continuing lack of resolution and confusion surrounding this matter cannot be in the best interest of the victims, families of victims and indeed the country as a whole,” the coalition said.